The Henley Passport Index, which ranks the world’s most powerful passports, was recently announced. The number of countries that allow visa-free travel to holders of these passports determines the same. According to the index, Japan and Singapore are at the top of the list, with India ranking 90th, down four places from last year.
While Indian passport holders are only permitted to travel visa-free to 58 countries, holders of Japan/Singapore passports are permitted to travel visa-free to 192 countries! South Korea and Germany are ranked second, with holders of the same able to travel to 190 visa-free destinations.
Afghanistan is at the bottom of the list, with an Afghan passport allowing visa-free travel to only 26 countries. Passports from Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, and Yemen are also at the bottom of the index. The majority of the countries at the bottom are either at war or in a state of strife. It should be noted that the index does not account for the current COVID-related restrictions.
The index also sheds light on the disparity between the most powerful and least powerful passports, and how it has widened as a result of the numerous COVID-related travel bans and restrictions. According to the research, the gap may widen further as countries with the strongest passports have erected strict barriers for visitors from other countries.
Has Covid become an excuse for curbing visitors from the global south?
In response to recent developments, experts suggest that restrictive policies initially introduced to contain the spread of Covid-19 are now being conveniently applied to contain mobility from the global south. Commenting in Henley & Partners’ Global Mobility Report 2021 Q4, Prof. Mehari Taddele Maru, a Fellow at the United Nations University Institute on Comparative Regional Integration Studies, points out that the rationale behind the restrictions on travelers from the global south are not necessarily related to vaccination or infection rates, as they are subject to quarantine requirements whether they are vaccinated or not.
“The global north has been enforcing aggressive migration containment strategies for some time now through the rigid application of border controls, undermining the movement of persons in various ways. Covid-19-associated travel restrictions are new additions to the toolbox of migration containment instruments employed by the global north to curb mobility from the global south.”
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